Williams rounded out his best performance of the young season with nine rebounds, three steals and two assists. He also knocked down all four of his three-point attempts.
Chase Budinger struggled from behind the arc, making only 1 of 5 attempts. He still finished 6 of 12 from the field by playing heady basketball in attacking the basket. In fact, last night's game marked the first double-double of this talented freshman's career. His aggressiveness produced a few crowd pleasing lay ups and more importantly, 11 rebounds.
Mustafa Shakur set the tone for a game that saw the Wildcats again spread the wealth by dishing out 11 assists. The team finished with 18 assists, two shy of this season's magic number.
Jawann McClellan did not have his best shooting night, but played solid defense and smartly got to the foul line by driving against the overly aggressive UNLV defenders. He made 6 of 8 free throws in helping lead the team to a 75.0% clip from the charity stripe.
The games first 10 minutes were played at a frenetic pace. There were plenty of missed shots, loose balls, second chance opportunities and turnovers as both teams adjusted to the quick pace. With six minutes to play in the half, both teams began to settle down. Trailing 33-29 with four to play, Arizona used a 17-3 run to sprint past the Rebels.
The Wildcats went to the locker room leading 46-36 after an exciting final few seconds. After UNLV hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to seven, Lute Olson called a timeout and ran a set play for Williams. With Budinger inbounding, Williams took a tipped pass and nailed a three of his own as time expired.
The Wildcats then opened the second half with a 27-12 run that stretched the lead to 73-48 with 10 minutes to play.
Arizona used what's becoming a vaunted 2-3 Zone to force the Rebels into taking 32 contested three-point attempts. They made only nine (28.1%). Arizona capitalized on the missed shots by outrebounding the Rebels 41-25.
Arizona has showed steady improvement over its last four games against teams with varying styles of play. Next up is Illinois (7-1, 0-0 Big 10). The Illini will test the Wildcats more than any other opponent so far this season, but because of Arizona's willingness to play a competitive schedule the Wildcats should be up to the challenge.
Daniel Dillon played 18 minutes against the Rebels. He knocked down his first two three-point attempts and finished the game with six points. More impressively, Dillon proved to be a defensive force in the 2-3 Zone, contesting every outside shot that was taken in his area. Dillon's aggressiveness on the perimeter helped to stretch UNLV's offense and forced them into taking one bad shot after another. Radenovic has been Arizona's most consistent player this season. He is scoring from all over the floor, making his free throws (8 of 9 last night), rebounding (7), and getting to loose balls. His leadership both on and off the court has been great and is much needed if this team is going to win games in hostile environments. Williams looked focused and as a result, played fantastic. Budinger showed maturity in realizing that his outside shot was off and driving to the basket for points in the second half. This was Arizona's best game in terms of players moving without the ball, setting screens and moving to open spaces on the floor to keep the court spread.
Arizona was a bit careless with the ball at times. The team had 10 turnovers at the half. They improved in the second frame, finishing the game with only 14. Still, 14 is too many and better teams such as those on Arizona's upcoming schedule (Illinois, Louisville, Memphis, San Diego State, Houston and especially UCLA and Washington) will do a better job than UNLV did in converting those turnovers into points. While Shakur had 11 assists, he also had five turnovers. His production still equates to a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio, which is darn good, but last night most of his turnovers could have been avoided had he not tried to force the issue on more than one occasion. In fact, four of Shakur's turnovers came on plays that instead could have easily resulted in assists. That being said, Shakur is already off to his best start as a Wildcat and his willingness to put the team ahead of himself will pay dividends for both him and the team as the season progresses.
Arizona is learning to play with big leads. That's good. What's not good is that Arizona has still not perfected the art of playing well with big leads. The Wildcats blew a 20 point lead at Virginia and lost. In every game since, the Wildcats have led big and watched their advantages dip down into single digits. Last night, the second half lead never dipped beneath 12 but still, the Wildcats had a 25 point advantage with 10 minutes to play. It's never easy keeping focus during a blowout. In fact, it's extremely difficult. Still, this is a team that is still learning and growing. Role players need to step their games up and play with the same focus as the starters. Arizona is heading into one of the toughest stretches of its entire schedule. Heck, this stretch could very well be the toughest stretch any team will face in the entire country. If the sloppy play continues when Arizona jumps out to big leads, the consequences could be dire. Teams like Illinois, Louisville and Memphis, much like Arizona, can score in bunches and much like Virginia, will challenge the Wildcats to the bitter end.